Are you someone who enjoys thrillers and mysteries? Books where there is a chain of disappearances, all with a pattern usually connected to a serial killer on the run. Or movies and documentaries where a specific spot witnesses vanishings, and they tie it to the presence of aliens. If these plots intrigue you, Stephen Goldhahn’s ‘Beneath the Maize’ is the right book for you.

Set in the seemingly serene cornfields of Sheboygan County, haunted by numerous missing person cases over sixteen long years, ‘Beneath the Mazie’ adds something more unsettling, an even better twist, a maze beneath the maize that the characters and the readers are set to unfurl.

Stephen Goldhahn scripts an enigmatic tale with unexplainable vanishings that is sure to leave the readers questioning the boundaries between reality and fiction. Questions keep flooding one’s comprehension- Are the disappearances tied to a serial killer? Or is it something more insidious brewing beneath the maize? In this novel, the author manages to pack a lot of meaning, encapsulating the themes of magical realism, fantasy, and Native American folklore.

In Sheboygan County, we meet our rookie reporter, Luke Kramer, who, having recently returned to the area is now working for a local Sheboygan city newspaper. As he begins researching GMO corn for a story, he connects with the Native American fungi expert, Aiyanna-Nez Black Bear. As they investigate the corn, the mushrooms, and even the disappearances, they become friends and maybe a little more. While exploring the mysteries, they rely on Native American beliefs and legends to solve the strange possibilities hiding “beneath the maize”. They are also joined by the Sheriff’s Detective, Dan Meyers, and his deputy, Sam Riley, who are doubtful of the use of mythical tales yet remain crucial to the investigation. Goldhahn succeeds in blending a bit of romance with the chills of the unknown. It is a mystery that is sure to keep one hooked.

The novel looks like a puzzling mystery brewing millions of questions: why are there so many missing persons in this small town crossing sixteen years? Why are these disappearances always in or near cornfields? What are the disturbed soil patterns? What are these crop circles? How do the nearby surrounding stalks get spiralled and destructed? Why are the bodies of the missing persons nowhere to be found? These questions and more are interesting enough to keep the seekers of mysteries hooked. However, Goldhahn takes it a step further; he never stops at the surface; there is always a set of layers to unpack.

The book is definitely a page-turner with skilfully drawn characters, captivating wordplay, and language that is simple yet powerful. The array of characters is portrayed humanely and as necessary for the plot. They deal with their struggles while attempting to solve the grand puzzle of the disappearances intimately tied to the maize. The readers can quickly grasp the emotions that the characters are going through. Goldhahn does not just write a mystery novel but also ensures to input details on Native American history and folklore, skilfully blending fiction, science, and history.

Goldhahn keeps the readers on edge throughout the novel. There are a lot of hidden twists and turns in every chapter, and sometimes even on every page of a chapter. The plot simply cannot be predicted, leaving readers to speculate about the mysterious disappearances until, gradually, the pieces start falling together.

The puns used are hilariously outrageous, lacing the story with humour. Be it the title, which digs the maze in the maize, or the wordplay in the name Sheboygan, the writing effortlessly pulls the reader into a thoroughly engaging read. The aftermath of the main plot is a captivating narrative where wrongs are righted and virtue triumphs.

What was most striking about this book is its commitment to realism – the characters are relatable, the accents are authentic, the detailed descriptions of the landscape are vivid, there is a lot of history to unpack, lives to relive, and descriptive references to scientific names and phenomena. Goldhahn also cites all his references, making the work more credible for inquisitive minds.

This 402-pager unfurls the mysteries and unfolds the story gradually; however, all the time invested is worth it. The writing style is such that even the most far-fetched ideas seem believable. As one progresses through the novel, one craves to know more about Sheboygan County, the residents, the GMO corn, the gigantic mushrooms, the Native American history, and the mythologies. Thus, the novel makes the readers feel deeply connected to the plot and its characters, which could sometimes become overwhelming. This deep connection between the book, its characters and the readers while keeping the readers on edge is an essential component of great mysteries like that of Stephen King and Dan Brown, and Stephen Goldhahn has been thoroughly successful.

Standing on a solid foundation and then catapulting the reader into a magical narrative that takes us on a wild ride, ‘Beneath the Maize’ is an unputdownable read. Any reader up for a compelling mystery with relatable characters served with dashes of history and science will indeed find this novel delightful.

Dive into “Beneath the Maize” by Stephen Goldhahn, a gripping sci-fi crime mystery set in 1999 Wisconsin. Follow Luke Kramer and his team as they uncover the connection between disappearances and mysterious phenomena like GMO corn and Native American folklore. This tale blends magical realism and fantasy, exploring the depths of Ho-Chunk myth. Experience a modern-day legend filled with desperation and love. Available on Amazon, it’s a must-read for those craving mystery with a touch of the mystical.

Read: Interview with Stephen Goldhahn, Author of Beneath the Maize

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Atrayee Set is a Sociology graduate from St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, who is currently pursuing her M.A. in Development Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.